Saturday, March 10, 2012

That's how I let go of my conscience

I issued my judicial record the other day and it had a stamp that said: no criminal charges. Requesting a criminal record is just a normal procedure that you do in Lebanon for every single official document you need to issue, including, a driving licence (so a former prisoner is not allowed to drive!) and now the genius Lebanese minister of information (a ministry that should not exist in the first place) also wants to ban ex-prisoners from blogging or owning websites.  I looked at my honorary document that certified that I am a good citizen and I suddenly envied every resident of Roumieh.

This piece of paper was a kind of wake up call. A good citizen in a perfectly corrupt state is rather a certificate of cowardliness, of surrender, of submission. More, it felt like the state is hereby pronouncing me officially stupid. Congratulations, you win the prize of the perfect stupid citizen, here's your paper, my criminal record said.

My friends say that my problem is that I have a conscience. Having a conscience can torment you at night and prevent you from sleep. That you know. But having a conscience can also sometimes leave you with a feeling of guilt, a feeling I have every time I look in the eyes of my sister for whom I was unable to make a Wasta that could have changed her life, and I could, but I didn't.

Then my clean record came and I suddenly understood what my friends meant to tell me. This conscience is something hereditary. I know where it comes from. My parents had it, this disease. So I realized, that's why my parents have been working for more than forty years and are still poor?. "We haven't been praying enough," I heard my dad say the other day as he contemplated his condition. Praying is letting go of the one bird in your hand for the sake of the 10 on the tree, I thought. It just hushes that call for justice and that burst of anger burning inside your chest. We need to stop putting down those volcanoes inside us. We need to ban all those stress management centers, close down those therapeutic clinics, and ban praying if we could. We need less sane individuals, less waiting, less patience, less praying. We need all our anger, all our madness, and all our fury. We need to awaken the beast inside us.

But I have a clean record. Who am I to judge my dad for praying? I am no different than him after all. He prays, I keep my conscience clean, and we both let go of the one bird in our hand: what's to be done here now. I have been a good citizen, what has that brought me? All is wrong around me and all I say: this is a product of others' ignorance. Only if people were wiser! But wisdom is a disease. It only weighs you down with that feeling called responsibility, and you feel you no longer can go on ignoring all the wrong around you. But instead all you do is put the blame on those others who are guided by their ignorance. Wisdom is a disease that is hardly contagious, so you end up quarantining yourself voluntarily for you no longer belong. You, the wise, cannot join them in their ignorance. Hold on, why not? I thought. Yes, I can.

Then this idea came to me. What if I join others in the festivities of ignorance. What if I I no longer wait in queues. What if I throw garbage out my my car window. What if I drive on green, yellow, and red lights. What if I honk my car horn every time another enlightened fellow tried to overpass me. What if I park on handicapped spots which I have not paid for. What if I cross speed limit and smile to speed monitoring cameras. What if I threaten to use my phone every time I am stopped by the police. But again, what if I do all that and nothing happens. What if the police is intimidated by my call and let me go. What if I say, arrest me, take me to prison, I broke the law, and he says he won't but that I shouldn't do it again. What if I begged him to take me to Roumieh where I am no longer pronounced the perfect stupid citizen.

Then I thought, what if those I call ignorant were just like me. What if they too used to have a conscience one day and I just happen to arrive late to the realm of real wisdom. What if I am the ignorant one here. My friends were right after all. They tried to warn me. I was sticking to my conscience like one sticks to virginity, keeping it for the right government, for the right time, for that day when... but I lost my virginity. I was raped by the system. I am a just another victim of the system. That's why my criminal record is clean.

Now I am stuck. I have to do something that stains my criminal record. I refuse to be the perfect stupid citizen, but the system fucks you even with that. It doesn't matter if you follow the law or if you don't. You could still have a clean record. Cleaning your record is easy anyway. The paper you have in your hand is an illusion of a paper and the system that fucks you everyday is an illusion of a system. So let go of your conscience. It is of no use to you. That's how I let go of mine.

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